Though not necessarily a place you want to walk around and take in the views, the Port of Philadelphia has been a key part of the city’s economy for over 300 years. Sitting on the southeastern side of the city adjacent to the Navy Yard, this industrial area is rapidly expanding and has even grander plans on the horizon. After hundreds of millions of dollars of investment over the last decade to expand and modernize capabilities, the Port recently released an expansive vision for the future to turn this area into a world-class facility.

A view of the current facilities, calling out for an upgrade
Even more containers like these will fill the revamped port
A constantly flow of 18-wheelers all around, with cranes in the background underneath the Walt Whitman Bridge
Pictures don't do justice to the massive scale of the area
A summary of recent investments, with a tidy price tag for the future at the bottom

Plans now call for a $3.5 billion capital investment to expand crane capabilities, increase both dry and refrigerated storage and deepen the river to handle the ever-increasing size of container ships well into the future. Philadelphia is currently the fastest growing port in the nation and upgrades are necessary if the city hopes to maintain and expand their standing as a key shipping cog. In fact, PhilaPort has a great video which shares the vision and offers some pretty cool visuals for what’s to come.

Pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say? These plans are again just a vision, but what a vision it is. We won’t rehash everything here, but we thought we’d go ahead and point of some of the key items. As something that would impact all aspects of the project, deepening the Delaware River to 50 feet to accommodate larger boats is on the docket. A recent dredging of the river lowered it to 45 ft., allowing ships to proceed all the way up towards the Betsy Ross Bridge, where additional facilities will lighten the load on the southern end.

A graphic shows the size of the new channel

Another massive logistics project – the Bellwether District – is in progress where the Pennsylvania Energy Solutions refinery once stood, prior to a massive explosion in 2019. This facility sits on acres and acres of land, and plans are in place to make sure there is a quick connection between this new district and the upgraded port. Other roadway connections will also help with the constant flow of trucks entering and exiting the new port facilities. Oh, and Columbus Blvd. will be totally rerouted, too.

Aerial shows the interconnectivity of the facility to major roadways and the Bellwether District

The video above provides more information than we could cover here, but some of the before-and-afters are quite striking. Check out a couple examples of the more dramatic changes below.

From a parking lot...
PhilaPort-04 a new berth and additional warehouse space
Current view of the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal
New technologies will greatly increase the capacity

This is likely to be a long, long process even if only some of this is built, but it is exciting to see how the plans may unfold over time. From funding, to solidifying plans, permitting and buildout, there is doubtless many years of work ahead, if not decades. The city has long had a waterfront that is active from an industrial standpoint, and the entire southern edge of the city, from the new ports through the Navy Yard and down past the Bellwether District to the airport, is becoming a new center of Philadelphia commerce.

That said, we hope that the plans keep an eye towards environmental protection, as many existing ecosystems will be upended along the waterfront and at the bottom of the river. This will also likely limit any potential for a riverfront walking path that connects with the plans for the Navy Yard. All in all, we think this is a huge win for the city, the state, and the region as the downstream impacts of new jobs and a larger tax base certainly sound good to us. Let’s hope that the folks planning this can scrape together a few billion so that things get started sooner rather than later.